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Tolling Points

Texas Businesses Mount Campaign for More Toll Roads

By: 
Bill Cramer

It’s hard to imagine a more powerful testimonial for a product or service than when the customers who pay the bills line up and ask you to produce more of it.

If those customers are willing to pay more for what you’re offering, it’s either because the value it brings them is something they can’t do without, or because the dollars they save exceed what you ask them to pay.

Both of those motivations seemed to be at play recently when the Texas Association of Business (TAB), the state’s chamber of commerce, launched its Keep Texas Moving campaign to make the case for more toll road construction in the state.

It’s worth noting that TAB is stepping into what may once have been risky territory, with Governor Greg Abbott on record with a budget that added $4 billion for new roads “without raising taxes, fees, tolls or debt.” But that was in 2015, long before anyone imagined the economic or financial shocks of a global pandemic. The Texas campaign is one measure that the cost and benefit calculations have changed. And it’s a model for what businesses can do to support a full toolbox of funding and financing options for safe surface transportation and ease congestion.

Harnessing the power of private investment

There’s so much to like about the way TAB makes the case for more toll roads.

“We are Texas business leaders, chambers of commerce, truckers, commuters and community leaders advocating for the use of private investment, public-private partnerships and innovative traffic management solutions—like managed toll lanes and real-time technology to improve the most gridlocked Texas roads,” the campaign page states.

“Texas should welcome and harness private investment and managed toll lanes. This will improve our most congested roadways now and into the future, provide a choice in travel and free up traditional funding for rural and energy sector highways.”

The site points to the two intersecting, undeniable facts that drive the need for new roads: unprecedented population growth that is bringing more than 1,000 new people and hundreds of cars into the state each day, and the harsh budget impacts Texas has had to endure as the COVID-19 pandemic drives down sales taxes and state oil revenues.

TAB points to private investment as the obvious, logical solution that will get the new capacity built, create jobs, and give the state economy a badly-needed boost. It picks up on two key advantages of user financing that IBTTA members have been talking about for many years. “Public-private partnerships build roads that give drivers the option of using a toll lane in exchange for a faster trip,” the site notes. And “private investments save taxpayer dollars and allow the state to invest in other areas.”

An all-star lineup

The Lone Star State is exactly where you would expect an all-star lineup to come together and get the job done. Since its launch in late July, TAB has brought together a group of 18 chambers of commerce and business associations to speak with one voice. And now, The Texan reports, the organization is hosting local meetings across the state to make the case for user-financed transportation.

“It’s time that Texas again look to the private sector, public-private partnerships and solutions like optional toll lanes to address the serious funding shortfall facing our state’s transportation system,” said TAB Senior Vice President Aaron Cox, at a recent session in Lubbock.

Click here to download your copy of IBTTA’s Grassroots Toll Kit.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 09:00

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